One could have almost forgotten that COVID was still around as football Friday night in Buford was as close to normal as it has been since the virus first hit. The size of the crowd was one generally seen during a playoff game, and the student section especially was electric as Buford hosted Cedar Grove in a preseason scrimmage on Friday, Aug. 6, at the newly renovated Tom Riden Stadium.
The stadium gained a brand new artificial turf field and a new section of bleachers in the end zone that added an additional 350 seats.
Buford looked like all of the countless hours spent practicing in the summer heat paid off as they dominated Cedar Grove, a perennial 3A favorite. The Wolves defeated the Saints 21-7.
Buford got onto the board first after senior quarterback Ashton Daniels connected with senior Peyton Rinker for a six-yard touchdown pass with 5:26 on the clock in the first quarter. Mario Ventura got the extra point to put the Wolves up 7-0.
With a second left in the first quarter, Daniels found another player open. This time, he threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to sophomore KJ Bolden. Ventura made the PAT to make the score 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Buford would score once more before halftime when senior running back Eli Parks got past the Saints’ defense as he rushed for two yards for the score. Once again, the PAT was good by Ventura. The Wolves went into halftime with a 21-0 lead.
After halftime, Buford’s secondary and third-string players held Cedar Grove from scoring up until the fourth quarter with just a minute left on the game clock on a 35-yard touchdown pass to end the game 21-7.
Buford had 273 offensive yards on 51 plays to Cedar Grove’s 182 yards on 43 plays during the scrimmage. The teams were even on passing yards at 127 yards each. Buford had 21 passing attempts with 11 completed to average 11.5 yards per pass, while Cedar Grove completed 16 out of 26 attempts for an average of 7.9 yards per pass. Buford had one interception during the scrimmage.
Daniels was 4-for-8 passing for a total of 93 yards and two touchdowns. Dylan Wittke was also 4-for-8 passing and had 28 passing yards. Bolden and Isaiah Bond were the two main receivers for the Wolves.
Victor Venn saw the most action among the running backs with nine carries, but Ryan McKinnis amassed the most rushing yards at 37.
The seniors really shined on the defense for the Wolves as Eli Parks, Aubrey Smith, Malik Spencer and River Wilson recorded two solo tackles each.
Buford will look to avenge last year’s season-opening loss to North Cobb as the Wolves once again face the Warriors on Friday, Aug. 20 at North Cobb.
Featured photo above: Buford senior #9 Aubrey Smith brings down a Cedar Grove player during a preseason scrimmage on August 6, 2021, at Tom Riden Stadium. Photo by Alicia Couch Payne